Friday 26 May 2017

Housing woes won't stop our bid for EU drug body: Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: rollingnews.ie
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: rollingnews.ie

Sarah Collins

Housing shortages and health sector woes will not derail Ireland's bid for Brexit jobs, Health Minister Simon Harris insists.

The minister was in Brussels in a bid to lure the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Ireland.

According to a 2012 EU agreement on agencies, there must be "appropriate access to the labour market, social security and medical care" for agency employees and their families.

The agreement doesn't mention housing, but it does include "accessibility of the location" and "education facilities" for children of agency staff.

"Obviously, there are challenges in the health service, I accept that, but the overall package that Ireland offers is very strong," Mr Harris said.

"Dublin is the best possible home for the EMA, if the overriding criteria is how do you ensure a seamless transition," he said, pointing to Dublin's proximity to London, language and education system.

"We genuinely believe we can provide a top-class home for the EMA that can minimise the disruption," he said.

The EMA is responsible for vetting medicines for use in the EU, and providing safety information on those medicines. It has around 900 staff at its current base in London's Canary Wharf.

In its bid for the agency, Ireland will be up against Sweden and the Netherlands. Italy, France, Finland and Spain have also expressed an interest.

EU leaders will make the final decision on the agency's new home once the UK officially triggers Brexit. Mr Harris has already met with EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, and Ireland's EU commissioner Phil Hogan to make our case for the EMA.

Ireland has also made a bid for the European Banking Authority, which makes sure banks apply EU financial regulations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, who will travel to Brussels again on Thursday to meet with the bloc's chief negotiators, said Ireland's strategy on Brexit was "clear".

"All ministers are actively engaged at every opportunity, pressing the very strong case we have in Ireland - that our position not only be fully recognised, but it be factored in to whatever final arrangement is made between the UK and the European Union," he said.

Irish Independent

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